PETALING JAYA, March 27 — Singer-songwriter Keshi has dropped bandaids, a five-track EP that combines nostalgic lyrics with the comforting warmth of lo-fi hip-hop beats and acoustic guitar.
While it might seem like a strange time to be putting out music, the Houston-based artist’s release is apt as it touches on themes of transition and coming to terms with past struggles.
“bandaids is a record that diaries the changes in my life, as well as those of my friends that happened the past year.
“I think we’re all in a similar sort of transitioning period where we’re trying to find our own way to navigate life and I was able to share some of it in bandaids. It’s sad, but (we’re) trying to grow,” Keshi said in an email interview with Malay Mail.
The new EP consists of two previously released singles, blue and right here, along with three new tracks, less of you, alright, and bandaids.
Born Casey Luong, Keshi, 25, got his start by uploading self-produced songs on Soundcloud while working as a registered nurse in 2017.
He cultivated a dedicated fanbase with his unique sonic blend and won a music contest on Reddit with the moody single if you’re not the one for me, who is? that same year.
At one point, Keshi found himself feeling torn between pursuing his passion for music and pushing on with his nursing career, an internal struggle that resulted in the viral song skeletons, which has over 10 million streams on Spotify.
He wanted to express the exhaustion of being trapped in a routine that he had no love for and used his music as a cathartic outlet to process the frustration he felt at the time.
“I tried to shut that part of my life out, which, considering I was there 12 hours a day for three days out of the week, I was trying to repress about half my life for a solid year and a half.
“I’m really trying to convey how unhappy I was there. It wasn’t even a ‘rant-to-your-loved-ones’ kind of deal, it was a ‘shut-down-and-ignore-anything-that-happened’ kind of deal.”
The Vietnamese-American artist finally decided to take his scrubs off to sign with New York-based label Island Records last year and he hasn’t looked back since.
A self-confessed John Mayer superfan, Keshi has his sights set on pushing the boundaries of acoustic guitar to go beyond conventional rock and pop-oriented music.
He found inspiration in the lo-fi hip-hop YouTube phenomenon, where 24/7 streams of downtempo beats set to an image of an anime girl doing work at her desk have garnered immense popularity among music lovers.
“I think we were all kind of starved for a dreamy sort of sound that was old but fresh at the same time.
“(Lo-fi hip-hop) is inherently so listenable, and when you need to fill the space it’s the perfect thing to throw on.”
As someone who started in medicine before going on to pursue music full-time, Keshi understands the anxiety that some aspiring musicians might have when it comes to chasing their dreams.
Despite his worries, the fear of missed opportunities ultimately trumped the fear of failure.
“It sounds cliche but it’s true. There is nothing to stop you but you.
“I quit (nursing) because I was terrified of having a ‘what if’. It scares me more than an ‘I failed.’ Do what you love, and do it relentlessly.”
Check out Keshi’s latest EP bandaids here.